Application for Downer’s recusal can continue in Zuma’s absence, Judge Koen rules

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Judge Piet Koen has ruled in the Pietermaritzburg High Court that former President Jacob Zuma’s application for the recusal of state prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer can continue in the former President’s absence, for convenience’s sake.

Zuma and French arms company Thales are facing charges of corruption, racketeering and money laundering in connection with the 1999 arms deal.

The court has heard that Zuma is still under medical care in Gauteng but that he is able to follow the court proceedings virtually.

State, defence argue over former president Jacob Zuma’s medical records:

Zuma’s Advocate Dali Mpofu is arguing that there are 12 points of alleged misconduct by Advocate Downer and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

“Thanks to my learned friends, in their heads of argument on page 2 which is their contents pages of their heads the issues are itemised there and there are 12 issues. I will refer to the 12 issues of the conduct which in our team we call the dirty dozen of Mr Downer,” says Advocate Mpofu.

Mpofu is arguing that the alleged misconduct of Downer and the NPA is intertwined.

He has also argued that the misconduct has contaminated the case as a whole and that Zuma should be acquitted if the courts find in the defence’s favour about Downer’s recusal.

“Because that would have contaminated the legal process in such a way that as the old saying goes that it is better to let a non guilty man go free than to convict one wrongly. Now that’s a fundamental basis my Lord. [When this statement was made] it stayed in my head. [This was during] my very first criminal law lecture when this statement was made … it was [a] sobering [statement],” he says.

Below is the live stream of the court proceedings:

NPA to oppose Downer’s recusal

Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it intends to oppose the application calling for the recusal of Downer.

NPA spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga says, “We don’t want any postponement in this matter. There is no indication on whether Mr Zuma will be here [in court] or not. But we would like to proceed with the matter as we had indicated in the past that there is no merit to their application.”

“We will vigorously oppose the application and now that they supplemented accusing him of leaking the medical records to the media we dispute that. Mr Downer is a prosecutor of integrity. He maintained the confidentiality of all documentation that went through to him. So in essence we will vigorously oppose the application,” adds Mhaga.